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Cross Cultural Marriages

Can be tough. When you're dating it can get tricky at times but throw a lifelong covenant on top of it and you could find yourself in a whirlwind of struggles.

My husband is from Iran and a former Shi'a Muslim. He's very laid back, has a long fuse and not too much ruffles his feathers so to his credit that in itself makes a huge difference.  I, on the hand, am American, raised under the influence of Judaism and am a former Sunni Muslim. (I know I know! lol!) We're both in agreement that he is the one who wears the pants. He's the boss and because I can trust him with that position that's another huge help. But even though he's been in the States several years and has become very "Americanized" culture does have a big role in our marriage as I'm sure it does for anyone whose in a cross cultural marriage or relationship. Until we got premarital counseling neither one of us thought much about it. It was our Pastor who brought it up and made some really good points that now we're seeing is coming into play in our marriage. So here's a few suggestions for you to consider if you're going into a cross cultural marriage...

1. Extended family is going to serve a function in your marriage. If you can't get a long with them or your family can't get a long with your mate for whatever reason this should be given a lot of consideration. In my case I don't really have extended family and I get a long great with my husband's but that doesn't mean everything will always be perfect or won't present problems later. Your mate may want family heavily involved in your marriage (culturally this may be the norm) or maybe you want your family involved. In any case...too much involvement from extended family can lead to disaster. If you can't sneeze without a family member jumping in you really should work this out first.

2. Never underestimate upbringing. Maybe you have a more liberal upbringing from the West and your spouse is from the conservative East (or whatever culture lines you're blurring)...this will clash at some point and someone's going to be offended. If there's been no communication about this before getting married you're in a for a rough ride. Upbringing plays a major role in every area of life and when liberal meets conservative there has to be compromise and good communication.

3. Don't assume your spouse will agree with your choices or just go along with what you decide. Culture can get in the way in a big hurry here. Just because you think something is ok doesn't mean your spouse does even down to the smallest things.

4. Learn from your fights. Pay attention to how your mate takes a stand on something and how they fight. Are they reasonable? How do they handle compromise and figuring out a solution? Do they just demand you abide by their ideas and shut down any more arguing? Look...if they start acting like a dictator it's not going to go away later. It's just gonna get worse.

5. How open is your mate? Communication in a cross cultural relationship has to be good. If they shut down on certain issues it's not going to change later. As in any relationship you can't change anyone.

6. Be prepared to deal with the unexpected because you're going to hit cultural barriers.

7. Personalities are essential for any relationship but sharing things in common is no guarantee. When it comes down to it culture will play a big role in how someone thinks, makes judgments, behaves, reacts, makes decisions, etc.

8. Do you trust your mate to have control and lead? Again this is probably true in any relationship but things happen and if for some reason your mate has to end up running the show can you trust their judgment and ability to make good decisions? Are they able to lead? Can they handle taking the reins?

9. Social customs. What is acceptable to you may not be for your mate. You may be perfectly ok with giving friends hugs and kisses when you see them but something that is so tiny to you may be a huge problem for your mate. Even down to how someone dresses could be the start of a huge fight. Even in situations of compromise it may take some time for your mate to get accustomed to the compromise so don't assume just because you agreed on something that everything has instantly changed and is alright.

10. Communication, mutual respect and love. If you're marrying someone then you are accepting all their imperfections as well as everything that makes them beautiful. You're not perfect and neither is your spouse. If you find it hard to communicate very little will probably go smoothly. You have to be able to talk to your spouse about anything and get honest, respectful feedback. You have to be able to work together as in any relationship.

11. Someone has to be chief. Nothing runs smoothly when everyone's a chief and there are no indians. We're taught in society that everyone's in charge and marriage is 50/50 and blah blah but in reality...when the rubber meets the road only one chief is going to emerge. Better to find out asap who that will be in a marriage. I can say my husband is the man but if every time a decision needs to be made and I start locking horns with him then what I say is worth nothing. Who's gonna be in charge of money, paying bills, making financial decisions. That doesn't mean I have no say in any of them but when a decision has to be made, when choices have to be made can you trust your spouse to make the right ones and can you go with it?

12. Kids. How will they be raised?

13. Religion. You may both be the same religion but culture still brings differences and can be a problem. World view or culture is going to affect everything even if you share the same religion and must be prepared for. 

Marriage itself has all it's own problems and stressers and a cross cultural adds a few more. No matter how much you love your spouse that's not a magic potion to keep everything together. Going into it armed, prepared and ready will make a massive difference. It's gonna take working together and good communication. Don't be afraid to ask for or get help.
Disclaimer: I do not condone the teaching of men by women nor am I trying to exercise authority over men by using this blog as a method of teaching men. All posts are for the edification of women. For more on what I believe concerning this issue please see: Women - No Dominion Over Men
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